London mayor demands air debate
Boris warns Scotland will lose under Heathrow runway plan
Mayor of London Boris Johnson has today warned that Scotland will lose vital links to Britain’s only hub airport, even if a third runway at Heathrow is given the go-ahead.
In a damning analysis of Heathrow’s record he says regional connections over the past 25 years have plummeted, leaving some parts of Britain with no direct flights to the airport.
Mr Johnson says current forecasts suggest this situation will get worse as Heathrow seeks to fill valuable slots with more lucrative long-haul services.
He said: “Having connections with the UK hub airport is hugely important for Scotland. Those connections allow businesses to trade and secure investment across the globe.
“But the truth is that Heathrow has been failing our regions well over a quarter of a century and quite staggeringly the Airports Commission’s own analysis shows that the construction of a third runway only worsens the situation. That is not how you rebalance the economy and spread prosperity across the UK.
“The only long-term solution that would enable British businesses to compete on a level playing field with our European competitors is to build a four-runway hub airport, and the only logical location for that airport is to the east of London.”
The number of British cities served by Heathrow has plummeted by more than 60% from 18 routes in 1990 to just seven today. Since 1996 the number of daily flights from Glasgow, Inverness and Edinburgh to Heathrow has dropped by more than half from 53 to just 21.
Since 2012 the number of daily flights between Aberdeen and Heathrow has dropped by 38% from 13 flights a day to eight flights a day.
This fall in connectivity was highlighted last month when Scotland saw the loss of nine daily flights from Heathrow with the closure of Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red short haul service to Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Overall, domestic connectivity from Heathrow has fallen from 18 to seven routes over the last quarter of a century. Inverness lost its connection to Heathrow in 1997.
The Mayor has written to 11 regions and more than 480 key businesses around the country to highlight the fact that the Airports Commission itself has forecast that an expanded Heathrow would accommodate even fewer domestic routes – reducing the number of British airports connected to a UK hub from seven to four.
He notes that the multi-billion pound expansion of Heathrow would also only deliver a maximum of 12 new long-haul destinations, according to the Airports Commission.
Mr Johnson argues that hub airport connections are vital to the economic prosperity of Britain’s regional cities as they rely on connections to and from hub airports for international trade, tourism and for foreign investment.
Scotland has ambitious aims for exports. In 2010 the Scottish Government announced plans to increase exports to international markets by 50% by 2017 from £22.81bn to £33.4bn.
In Scotland, aviation plays a crucial role in supporting the economy. Research by Oxford Economics suggests that around £1 billion of Scottish goods were exported by air via a hub airport.
Access to international markets is equally as important for attracting tourists and is key to underpinning the £1.8bn spent by foreign visitors to Scotland every year.
The Scottish financial services and the oil and gas sectors also have a global profile and need the global access only a UK hub can provide.
Aviation experts agree that cities without hub connections to network airlines can become invisible to those seeking to do business. Since 1990, 11 UK airports have lost air service connections to the Heathrow hub: Birmingham, Durham Tees Valley, East Midlands, Guernsey, Humberside, Inverness, Isle of Man, Jersey, Liverpool, Newquay, and Plymouth.
On Friday the former leader of the SNP and MP for Gordon, Alex Salmond (right), told the Evening Standard: “Heathrow says it’s a private development, but it depends on at least £5 billion of public money, and that’s only the initial estimate. What we’d want to know is that if it were to be a development which depended on infrastructure spending, is that spending going to be properly Barnetted?
“The question I’ll ask is: ‘What guarantees will you give in terms of connectivity of Scottish destinations into either airport (Heathrow or Gatwick) if they become the choice?’ If the answer is, ‘There are no guarantees’, why on earth would we want to support it?”
Mr Johnson says that with the Commission’s own report concluding that connectivity to the regions and nations will decline it is extremely doubtful that any such guarantees, from Government or indeed from Heathrow, will be forthcoming.
The Mayor of London has long argued that a new hub solution is required to address the connectivity issues that the SNP is now raising.
He says Britain’s regions have also seen their global connectivity fall behind competing cities in mainland Europe.
Statistics from the Official Airline Guide’s 2015 summer schedule for Europe show Heathrow served just 174 international destinations, while Frankfurt served 259, Amsterdam Schiphol 254 and Paris Charles De Gaulle 241.
“Britain needs a hub airport with four runways in order to compete with the four runway airports in Europe, such as Frankfurt and Paris Charles De Gaulle, which have overtaken Heathrow,” says Mr Johnson.
However, the Airports Commission has explicitly ruled out a fourth runway at Heathrow, not least in recognition of the increased air and noise pollution over London, and even goes as far as to propose legislating against it ever being built.
Cities in emerging markets not served by Heathrow but served by its European competitors with four or more runways include: Nanjing, Hangzhou, Chongqing, Wuhan, and Shenyang in China; Dar es Salaam in Tanzania; Dakar in Senegal; Panama City, and the South American capitals of Santiago, Caracas, and Montevideo.